Advertising agencies that take a keen interest in how they are viewed by top clients (and what self-respecting agency does not?) should look closely at this year’s Reputations Survey. Not simply because there have been some important changes in the headline rankings, but because of what can be gleaned from the small print.
First, the obvious. Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO has finally made it to pole position, a situation foreshadowed some years ago so far as billings were concerned. The debate over why its reputation has taken so long to catch up (it was third in 2000, fourth in 1999) is less interesting than the fact that it has now established an overwhelming lead – and is perhaps in a premier league all of its own. Last year’s winner, BMP DDB, is a long way behind with 165 mentions against AMV.BBDO’s 227; only a whisker ahead, in fact, of J Walter Thompson (164).
This has not been a good year for WPP agencies. JWT failed to claw back the leadership it had held for so long – its exit from the top ten creativity table providing a strong clue as to why. And Ogilvy & Mather has slipped from fourth position to eighth, it lowest since the survey began 13 years ago. But their problems are as nothing compared to those faced by that former stalwart Saatchi & Saatchi. After years of gentle decline, it has plunged from sixth position to sixteenth.
That volatility was echoed elsewhere. M&C Saatchi fell from seventh to 13th place and HHCL & Partners, which has experienced a series of disastrous client losses recently, including the AA, dropped from ninth to 17th.
Thirteen was lucky for some, though. TBWA/London, which has experienced something of an identity crisis in recent years through its many agency mergers, at last achieved a clear-cut result with clients, who voted it into the top five for the first time. Moving from 14th to fifth is no mean achievement – and reflects the agency’s rising creative reputation, plus a growing sensitivity towards providing value for money. But TBWA should note that it has a long way to go before it can hope to overtake the agency immediately above it – McCann-Erickson – in terms of overall performance.
The other barnstorming performance was from Mother. Muscling into the top 25, though praiseworthy in itself, was perhaps less interesting than some of the detail. For instance, the fact that Mother soared into the top five in the creativity table (it was 17th last year); and that it also topped the “agencies gaining most esteem” category, the top five of which is usually dominated by the big hitters. No doubt Mother’s breakthrough this year has quite a lot to do with big wins on the Coca-Cola roster and its emergence on the COI Communications approved list. The survey was conducted before the recent Egg win.
The other tendency worth noting is the relentless rise of the media specialists. There are six figuring in the top 25, headed by Zenith and Carat at ninth and tenth positions respectively. How long before one of them acquires the reputation to make it into the top five?